Cannes Wisdom: Thought You Were A Human? You’ll Soon Be A Centaur


Technology appears to be taking over everything, including our bodies, as we eventually morph into a hybrid species with invisible wires protruding out our every pore. At least, that was one of the takeaways for Ogilvy PR’s Richard Brett, who’s down on the ground for us in Cannes.

Cannes Lions is first and foremost about creativity. But it is now a festival of technology too. This new technology is opening up infinite new ways to create engaging stories about brands: it sits at the heart of so many new ideas, case studies and winning work this year.

A number of people have eloquently and insightfully bought this technology revolution together in a unifying story about The Singularity. This moment will happen at some point over the next 20 to 30 years and its exact definition depends on who you listen to, but it is essentially when technology reaches the point of true independent intelligence or consciousness, or when technology reaches a tipping point of exponential progress that causes a runaway reaction, or when human and machine become one.

This last definition is what I see as the most likely to happen first, a true blurring of species and artificial technology, and I’m both very excited but also very scared by what I’ve seen.

From virtual reality, to smart wearable fabrics (such as Google’s project Jacquard ), to virtual tactility and haptics, to High Fidelity (the new Second Life platform where you are able interact with your real friends as digital reflections of themselves), to Virtual Personal Assistants, to self driving cars, to Dot (the first braille smartwatch), to Dopper Labs’ Here Active Listening (that allows you to manipulate what you hear around you in real time), to new instant translation technology such as Pilot, to theoretical talk of the ultimate smartphone that is so small it can be injected into you (so your brain can connect to the internet directly), to The Pretender Project (which allows you to control another person’s body anywhere in the world), to predictions of a new creative machines that will work with us marketers to give us hundreds of new ideas against a brief…. These are new types of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) that will enhance our lives and take us into new places as beings that we didn’t think was remotely possible even five years ago.

Ultimately this trend (of new smart technology and artificial intelligence coming together with our own minds and bodies) was captured brilliantly by the author Kevin Kelly who gave a talk yesterday about his new book The Inevitable. In it he outlines 12 new technologies that will be arriving over the next few decades. He predicts that robots and artificial intelligence will replace some jobs and roles where efficiency is paramount (he foresees that over half of American truck drivers will be out of work by 2030), but that they will also enhance and work with us in certain industries where efficiency is not required, such as science, arts, marketing, creativity, innovation and travel to take these industries into new and exciting spaces.

But beyond this he captured that all of the new technology that I’ve outlined above will work seamlessly with us to enhance our own intellectual abilities, physical capabilities and experiences.

No longer will the human brain have the 10 billion neurons as it currently does, but it will be connected wirelessly to the internet and thus the rest humanity, and also having access to supercomputers with the power of 100 trillion neurons: our bodies and mind will have enhanced capabilities.

This is already happening. The very best medical team in the world are human doctors, powered by IBM Watson. Garry Kasparov is exploring how human chess players can work in partnership with AI. Siri and Cortana are in your hands already.

Kelly ultimately stated that you will become a new you: enhanced with artificial intelligence. Your body and mind will be capable of things currently impossible. We will no longer be humans he said, we will become a new hybrid species: centaurs.

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